Published by Mulholland Books on April 11, 2017
Genres: Crime Fiction
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When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily is found murdered hours later.
Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren't able to accurately describe the stranger's appearance to the police after the Emili's body was discovered. Asako, Emily's mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter's murder. PENANCE is a dark and voice-driven tale of revenge and psychological trauma that will leave readers breathless.
The novel revolves around a group of friends in a small, rural town. The town is known for its fresh and clean air, which results in a company which makes precision instruments moving there. The workforce is not thrilled with the move, most come from Tokyo and don’t fit in well with the locals. One of the newcomers’ children, Emily, makes friends with a group of local girls – Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko. As the blurb states, one holiday the five schoolgirls, who were 10 at the time, are playing when they are approached by a man who chooses Emily to help him with a task. An hour or more later, Emily is found violated and murdered.
At the time of this book, there was a statute of limitations during which criminals could be charged and so there is fifteen years to find the murderer. When the girls are thirteen, Emily’s mother invites them to her house and informs them that they have a choice – they must either discover who the murderer is or she will expect a penance from them, otherwise she would get revenge on them.
As the statute of limitations draws near, each of the four survivors tells us her story, both how she saw the event then and how her life has turned out. No one is unscathed, but the mother’s curse is as damaging to the girls as the actual murder was. It’s an absorbing story, both fascinating and disturbing. It’s not just about the crime, but about culture and identity, about family relationships, about rural life versus city life. It’s also about secrets and how they can haunt us.